Pete Peterson

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For other people named Pete Peterson, see Pete Peterson (disambiguation).
Pete Peterson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 1997
Preceded by Bill Grant
Succeeded by Allen Boyd
Personal details
Born (1935-06-26) June 26, 1935 (age 79)
Omaha, Nebraska
Political party Democratic
Military service
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service 1954–1980
Rank Colonel
Unit 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Purple Heart
Prisoner of War Medal

Douglas Brian "Pete" Peterson (born June 26, 1935, Omaha, Nebraska) was a U.S. Air Force pilot who spent over six years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese Army after his plane was shot down during the Vietnam War. He returned to Hanoi in 1997 as the first United States Ambassador to Vietnam. He was an ambassador until 2001, after which he devoted himself to philanthropic work.


Education, military service[edit]

Peterson grew up in Milton, Iowa and attended college at the University of Tampa. He joined the Air Force and served in Vietnam, where his F-4 Phantom II fighter was shot down on September 10, 1966. He spent six years in prison, a period he described as "hours and hours of boredom, spliced with moments of stark terror."[1] He was released March 4, 1973.

Academic, political career[edit]

After the war ended, Peterson remained in the Air Force and retired in 1981 as a Colonel with 26 years of service. After retirement he established a general contracting firm in Tampa, Florida and later a small computer company in Marianna, Florida. He served for 5 years on the faculty of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

In 1990, Peterson ran as a Democrat for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in Florida's 2nd congressional district. He defeated James W. Grant, a politician who grew unpopular after switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in the middle of his second term.

He declined to run for a fourth term (he was succeeded by Allen Boyd) and in 1997 was asked by President Bill Clinton to become the United States's first post-war ambassador to Vietnam.[1] One of his goals was securing an account of those still listed as missing in action from the war and so helping to resolve the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue.

In 1995, his first wife, Carlotta, had died, and two weeks after his installation in Hanoi he met Vi Le, Australia's senior trade commissioner, born in Vietnam, whom he married. In 2002, he moved to Melbourne, Australia so they could be closer to her family.[1] On November 17, 2000, he was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Clinton.

Philanthropy, business[edit]

Since retiring as ambassador, Peterson founded The Alliance for Safe Children, TASC, which aims to lower preventable injuries to children worldwide, and focuses specifically on such issues as drowning in Asia.[2][3] With his wife he started a company whose aim it is to promote American business in Southeast Asia.[4]

In 2009, Peterson acquired Australian citizenship.[1]

Peterson is a Senior Director for Albright Stonebridge Group, an international strategic consulting firm.


  1. ^ a b c d Webb, Carolyn (17 September 2009). "POW's journey to Australia, via love in Vietnam". The Age. Retrieved 8 October 2010. 
  2. ^ "Children from developing world dying of preventable injuries: UN". ABC News. 6 October 2002. Retrieved 5 October 2010. 
  3. ^ William Kremer (23 March 2013). "Pete Peterson: The ex-POW teaching Vietnam to swim". BBC News magazine. 
  4. ^ "Pete Peterson starts business". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 27 February 2002. Retrieved 8 October 2010. 
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Bill Grant
U.S. Representative
Florida's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Allen Boyd
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
new office
United States Ambassador to Vietnam
April 11, 1997–July 15, 2001
Succeeded by
Raymond Burghardt